ST. PETERSUBRG, Fla. - St. Petersburg police said in July that the city had set aside $3.8 million to hire 25 additional police officers, but instead the department would hire social workers and other trained professionals who could respond to calls for help that did not involve violence.
PREVIOUS REPORT: SPPD forming new team to respond to non-violent 911 calls
They called it the Community Assistant Liaison, or CAL, program, and said it would be up and running by October 1. However, as of September 4, the city has not taken any steps toward making CAL a reality, a city spokesperson tells FOX 13 News.
The city said it planned to put out a request for proposals (RFP) so providers could offer pricing for the services. The RFP is the first step government agencies must take when implementing a new program like CAL.
The city says an RFP has not been created or released, but might be sometime in October.
"We really can't give you a timeline as to when we'll be able to start the program," the spokesperson told FOX 13 News.
The announcement of the program was well-received and supported by many community leaders, including the president of the union representing St. Pete officers.
“We believe this will lead to decreased strain on precious police resources, reduce risk to our member officers, and create better outcomes for the most vulnerable citizens who we serve,” said Jon Vazquez, president of the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association, in July.
Dr. LaDonna Butler, a licensed counselor, has experience helping law enforcement navigate cases where an individual's mental health is a concern.
When she learned about the CAL program, she said it was a step in the right direction.
“I believe that this is a model. I believe that we are going to learn together as a community. I think we’re going to find a way,” said Dr. Butler. “I believe that when you have trained professionals meeting the needs of individuals that only can enhance community trust and community safety.”
Some St. Pete residents involved in community activism and peaceful protests said the October 1 start date for the new program needed to come sooner.
“I wish they would have started immediately. My life is going on right now. Oppression is hitting me in my head when I walk out this door,” said community activist and St. Pete resident Jabaar Edmond. “Any decision around equity needs to be immediate. It needs to be immediate because my life is in danger.”
Now, it's unclear when it will come, at all.